| Castro speaks on the Cuban National TV programme on Saturday. (AFP)
Havana, Oct. 29 (Reuters): Cuban leader Fidel Castro defiantly dismissed rumours that he was dead yesterday in television images showing him walking, talking on the telephone and reading the day’s newspapers.
In the first images of him issued in six weeks, Castro said he was taking part in government decisions, following the news, and making regular phone calls as he recovers from emergency intestinal surgery in late July.
“Now that our enemies have prematurely declared me dying or dead, I am happy to send my compatriots and friends around the world this short film material,” Castro said. “Now let’s see what they say. They will have to resurrect me,” the gray-bearded Leftist firebrand said.
The images showed a gaunt-looking Castro browsing through yesterday’s ruling Communist Party daily Granma, walking slowly out of a lift in a track-suit and talking on a telephone in a loud, clear voice.
A television presenter said the images, aimed to quell rumours of Castro’s death started by Cuban exiles in the US, were recorded yesterday.
Castro’s prolonged absence from public view set off rumours in recent weeks that the 80-year-old leader was dead and change imminent in Cuba, one of the world’s last communist-run nations.
The rumour mill was fuelled last week by Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva when he inadvertently implied Castro was dead and by a Caracas newspaper report that said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cuba’s main ally, had visited Havana secretly to say good-bye to Castro.
Castro was forced to relinquish power temporarily for the first time since his 1959 revolution to his younger brother Raul on July 31 after undergoing surgery to stop intestinal bleeding.
Earlier this month, Time magazine quoted a US official saying that Castro had terminal cancer. Cuban officials have denied Castro has stomach cancer and insist he is recovering gradually. But they have given no details of his illness, which are closely guarded state secrets.